Friday, April 24, 2020

The Green Revolution 

Beginning in the 1950s, The Green Revolution was considered the third wave of agriculture in The United States. The Green Revolution was endorsed largely by The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, and introduced the widespread use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, controlled water supply (irrigation), and mechanized farming methods. The method of using “high-yielding varieties'' (HYVs) was also developed during this time. The HYVs were crops where semi-dwarfing genes with a higher potential to absorb nitrogen were bred into the genomes for the rest of that crop, creating a stronger genome and therefore a larger harvest. The goal of these innovations was to increase the yield of crops. Norman Borlaug is deemed the father of this movement and earned a nobel peace prize for his efforts in increasing the yield of crops resulting in saving over a billion people from starvation. Mexico is regarded as the birthplace of The Green Revolution. With U.S. support and the order of Mexican president Manuel Ávila Camacho, Mexico evolved with new knowledge and technology. Mexico's successes began the spread of The Green Revolution into the Philippines, India, Brazil and several less successful attempts to increase crop yields in Africa.

Sparks of Environmental Activism and Government Response
The Green Revolution proved successful in helping aid world hunger, but it did not exist without criticism. Environmental Activists took issue with many aspects of these new agricultural practices and how they may be affecting the environment in a long-term sense. These concerns boiled down to a matter of sustainability. Resources such as synthetic fertilizers and water were mined, and these places could not replenish those resources as fast as they were being taken. Environmentalists were also concerned about the pollution of the soil during this process. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published in 1962 and reflected a conversation about pollution and agricultural chemicals' effects on ecology. Activists also advocated for proper conservation tilling methods including rotating crops in order to avoid topsoil erosion and depletion of nutrient-dense soil. Finally, there were economic concerns about an increasingly centralized agricultural system and its detrimental effects on small family farmers.

Several books and studies were published in favor of the sustainable agriculture movement. Wes Jackson published New Roots for Agriculture which argued that “monoculture farms with annual plants that require a lot of external inputs to grow – like huge fields of corn fertilized by ammonia – should be replaced by "polycultures" of perennial plants where one species would complement another” (Ganzel). U.S. Lawmakers did respond to this widespread concern from environmental activists by funding research initiatives. The goal was to inspire perhaps more eco-friendly practices while responding to hunger and population growth. In 1989, $4.45 million was allocated toward the Low-Impact Sustainable Agricultural (LISA) program with the USDA. This evolved into the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program.
In 1907 Farmers of Forty Centuries was written by Franklin H. King. Here, he discussed the advantages of sustainable agriculture and its necessity to the continuity of farming in the future. However, the term “sustainable agriculture” wasn’t coined until about 1980 by Australian agronomist Gordon McClymont.

Peppers, Preppers and Pandemics - Agricultural Independence within a Globalized Market

There is a lot to dissect when it comes to the topic of sustainability, but one pinpoint discussion is on the topic of “preppers.” Who exactly are they, and what does their mindset reveal about modern-day agriculture? This word, prepper, refers to the type of person who invests much of their time and energy into preparing for natural disasters (or, more severely, some apocalyptic event). Not all preppers have a big garden on their off-grid cabin, but many of them have something in common, and that is a seed of suspicion in the reliability of the structures in place to sustain all of humanity. And considering the contemporary stance of a world living under the shadow of COVID-19 (coronavirus), they may have a point. When grocery stores close down, it is the farmers, gardeners, off-the-gridders, and yes, those forward thinking preppers who continue life soundly while the rest of us struggle to shift.

Before delving into the benefits of preparedness in anticipation of disaster, first there are some benefits of the prepping lifestyle that are alone worth mentioning in the discussion of sustainable agriculture. For many preppers, “organic” (produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents) farming is part of their belief system. Of course, this means relying less on big agricultural giants mass-producing monoculture crops and more on what can grow naturally in the environment readily accessible to them. This ideal is not unique to preppers, but it does carry an interesting preposition about sustainable farming - in the face of disaster, whether it be natural or political, how fragile are the systems that we depend on for a need as basic as food?

Prepping, otherwise regarded as survivalism, is a concept that has been around since the 1930s when suspicions toward government collapse and nuclear warfare appeared in both fiction and nonfiction writings dawning after the cold war. Preppers regard The Great Depression as a prime example of the need for survivalism. Other waves of survivalism occurred during the libertarian movement of the 1960s, the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980s, after the September 11th, 2001 attacks, and the emergence of swine flu in 2009. The strategies discussed among these years compiled a vast array of survival skills, food preparedness being only one of them. However, our present day situation of the COVID-19 pandemic presents a struggle delicately woven into the food and grocery network. The disease was born in the wet markets in Wuhan, China, and in a chain reaction of precautionary events, people have been forced to rely less on the daily convenience of grocery stores. Along with this, the U.S. and countries around the globe must sacrifice a guaranteed sanitary shopping experience, and the promised longevity of shipping and importing common products and goods.

Although the sustainable agriculture movement has faced many critiques, one of which is its ability to actually feed 7.5 billion people across the globe without mass-producing food with the use of practices introduced by The Green Revolution (and later, the New Green Revolution). But there is now a more interesting debate in play brought about by this disease which threatens the infrastructure of mass-production and retrieval and abundance of goods. Could environmentalists have been right? Perhaps sustainable agriculture is not only necessary for the survival of ecosystems, but also the survival of humanity?



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